Alex Salmond has said he would have had Nicola Sturgeon's top aide Liz Lloyd "a thousand miles" from being a senior advisor in his government had he still been First Minister during Covid.

The former First Minister and SNP leader turned on his successor and her then chief of staff  today while giving evidence to MPs holding an inquiry on working relationships between the Scottish and UK governments.

He said there was no policy of deletion when he was First Minister and that for him he even found emails too informal as a means of communicating government business when he was in office.

Mr Salmond, who now leads the Alba Party, was asked by Labour MP Michael Shanks how he would have led Scotland through the Covid pandemic had he been in office during the crisis.

At the hearing in the Commons, the Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West referred to Ms Lloyd's evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry last month and noted a Whatsapp message between her and Ms Sturgeon in which the advisor suggested having "a rammy" over the constitution with the UK Government regarding Covid funding.

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Mr Shanks said: "There was evidence given to the Covid inquiry, although not as much as there should have been, that senior advisors in the Sturgeon government saw it as an opportunity for a rammy on the constitution. 

"If you had been First Minister during the Covid pandemic would you have carried out government in the way the Sturgeon government [did]?"

Mr Salmond replied: "I would not have let that person anywhere near being a senior advisor. The person you are talking about is Liz Lloyd.

The Herald: Former First Minister Alex Salmond giving evidence today to the House of Commons' Scottish Affairs Committee.   Photo: PA.

"It struck me as one of the most revealing thing I saw [in her evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry] is amid all the missing Whatsapp messages one message which somehow managed to be miraculously saved was the one that referred to Boris Johnson as a 'expletive deletive clown'.

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"Now listen, your constituents, my old constituents, many people might agree with that. But I cannot believe the Covid relatives watching that inquiry wanted to hear that, or for that matter the Scottish Secretary [Alister Jack] addressing things in the way he did when giving evidence.

"The last thing relatives want to hear is what politicians think of each other, they want to hear about what they actually did in terms of addressing the thing. 

"So, as far as that particular case is concerned, that particular person would have been 1000 miles from being a senior advisor."

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Mr Shanks then pressed Mr Salmond on whether he retained messages when he was First Minister and if he was surprised so few messages had been kept by the current government.

The former First Minister responded: "Well I was interested to hear that. Some people claim those practices date back to 2007 to delete messages, well that's the first I've heard of it.

"And I actually checked with Kenny MacAskill and Alex Neil who were ministers at the time whether they had heard of that policy and they both said they had not heard of it either."

He continued: "I conducted everything through my private office. Probably because I wasn't that electronically savvy. I think the first time I had Whatsapp was in 2017 or something like that, so it was a bit after I left office.

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"But I conducted everything through my private office or through personal contact or phone calls. I used to get annoyed at the informality of emails."

Mr Shanks then asked Mr Salmond to clarify what was the messages' retention policy when he was First Minister.

Mr Salmond said: "Well, there was no policy for deletion as I've already told you, and I was surprised to hear John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon say that there was or they had been advised. 

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"And who knows maybe a civil servant did say that, not to my knowledge. There was certainly no policy in my administration for deletion of messages on the basis that we heard during the Covid inquiry.

"I myself did not use informal messaging at all because I felt I had a private office and that was what I should do.

"I felt the best form of communication and in terms of inter governmental relations...was on the phone or in person, which is why I wanted to re-establish the JMC [Joint Ministerial Committee] because I thought you could get an enormous amount more done in a room, talking to people and explaining your concerns than you would sending endless cross letters or memos to each other, even official ones.

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"So, no deletion from me. And I am not aware of any deletion policy as was suggested way back to 2007. Certainly it was not one that I practiced."

Scottish Conservative leader and MP for Moray Douglas Ross later took up Mr Shanks's line of questioning.

He pointed out that Mr Salmond had made clear that there was no policy of deletion in his government, yet giving evidence to the Covid inquiry he said that under oath Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney had said there had been such policy since they entered government and pointed to both politicians being in Mr Salmond's first Cabinet in 2007.

"Based on that alone... is it your view that John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon lied under oath to the Covid inquiry?" asked Mr Ross.

Mr Salmond replied: "That is a matter for the Covid inquiry and for the Information Commissioner to investigate.

"Let me be quite clear. I am not aware of any such policy. I would have thought I would have to sign off a policy. Looking at what John said...he seemed to be referring to advice he had from civil servants.

"It's possible there was such advice through a private office. But there was certainly no general government policy, anything I signed off." 

Earlier at the hearing, Mr Salmond has questioned why the Foreign Office is “so petrified” by meetings between Humza Yousaf and foreign leaders.

In one of his first acts as Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron wrote to the Scottish Government to rebuke the current First Minister after meetings – including with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – without an official from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) present.

The letter included a threat to revoke support for Scotland overseas, including the removal of Scottish Government offices from UK embassies if officials were not present at future meetings.

Mr Salmond appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday to discuss inter-governmental relations since devolution – where he generally praised Lord Cameron’s approach to Scotland while he was prime minister.

But asked about the issues between the two Governments in the past year, Mr Salmond said: “Why we’ve got to this situation where the Foreign Office are so petrified of what Humza Yousaf might say to the Prime Minister of Iceland, I have got absolutely no idea.”

He added: “It is a self defeating business … you can’t stop Humza Yousaf believing what he does about Gaza, if indeed he was discussing Gaza, as opposed to climate change.”

The former first minister went on to suggest “there may be something more than meets the eye” in Lord Cameron’s letter, adding: “Nobody would send such a petty, ridiculous letter unless there was some backstory to it.”

Threatening to withdraw co-operation with Scotland abroad, Mr Salmond added, was “totally out of proportion”.

The former first minister, who served in Bute House for four years while Lord Cameron was in Downing Street, said the former prime minister engendered the best intergovernmental relations during his time in office – a time which saw the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement, paving the way for the 2014 independence referendum.

He added: “I don’t know what the backstory is behind the Cameron letter, but that letter was published.

“It looks like a reprimand to a naughty schoolboy and I’m hoping that Humza Yousaf can have an early meeting with David Cameron where I’m hoping that David Cameron will be as amenable and positive as he was on non-party political matters to me 10 years ago because I see no benefit whatsoever in trying to gag the First Minister of Scotland or trying to restrict who he meets and who he doesn’t meet.”

Concluding his evidence, Mr Salmond warned incoming UK ministers not to rely “on old chums” as “your enemies sometimes sit alongside you as opposed to opposite you”.

Asked by MPs what advice he would give to an incoming administration, he said: “Don’t rely on old chums, don’t rely on the informal network. The great wisdom that your enemies sometimes sit alongside you as opposed to the opposite you should employ."